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Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 03:44 GMT 04:44 UK
UN admits Rwanda genocide failure
Rwandan refugees
The UN could have done more to help Rwanda
The United Nations Security Council has explicitly accepted responsibility for failing to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.

In the first formal response to a report critical of the UN's role, council members acknowledged its main finding that their governments lacked the political will to stop the massacres.

Preventing another round of genocidal violence in central Africa is one of the UN's greatest challenges

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
Most of the 2,500 UN peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time were withdrawn after the deaths of 10 Belgian soldiers.

At a council debate, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, said none present could look back without remorse and sadness at the failure to help the people of Rwanda in their time of need.

"The unchecked brutality of the genocidaires made a mockery, once again, of the pledge 'never again,'" he said, referring to the promise made after the Holocaust.

Relatives watch digging
Victims' remains are still being found in places like this cesspit
The council stopped short an all-out apology similar to the one delivered by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt one week ago in Kigali.

Instead, the 15 council members focused on the lessons to be learned from their failure to act, particularly in Africa where wars continue to rage.

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said: "The prevention of another round of genocidal violence in central Africa is one of the core elements of US policy in the Great Lakes, and is one of the United Nations' greatest challenges."

Retiring General Romeo Dallaire
Kofi Annan did not pass on warnings from Canadian General Romeo Dallaire
"In the days ahead, how we act to help bring peace to Congo will be the best evidence that we've learned the lessons of our past failures," he said.

Rwanda's UN Ambassador, Joseph Mutaboba, welcomed the report and its recommendations but said the council could do more. "It's never to late to make things right," he said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was head of UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, commissioned the report and was out for criticism for not passing on warnings about the impending genocide.

Mr Annan said he fully accepted the report's conclusions.

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07 Apr 00 | Africa
Belgian apology to Rwanda
01 Apr 00 | Africa
Rwanda genocide death sentences
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